Cypress Creek Fire Department calls for May sales tax election citing need for new fire station, more personnel

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Residents within Harris County Emergency Services District No. 13—the governmental entity that operates as the Cypress Creek Fire Department—will have a chance to vote this May on a ballot measure to allow the district to collect a percentage of sales tax revenue on goods sold within its boundaries.

Officials said the measure would help fund the construction of a fifth fire station in the southern portion of the district along with a new fire engine and the new personnel that would be needed to staff it.

The station’s construction is part of a larger effort by the district to drive down response times and improve service in the community, Fire Chief Richard Lieder said. Over the past five years, the district has shifted from an predominantly volunteer organization—with firefighters often responding from their houses to the station and then to the scene—to a combination of full-time and part-time employees and volunteers working 24/7 at four fire stations, he said.

If approved by voters, the measure would generate an estimated $1.1 million for the district annually, Lieder said. The estimated cost of the new fire station includes $400,000 for a loan payment for the land and construction, about $700,000 for a new engine and $835,000 per year for the 12 new personnel that would be required to keep the station staffed 24/7, he said.

“We’ll have to fund some of that from our existing property tax revenue, but with the combination of sales tax and what we have left over in property tax, we can make it work,” he said. “Without sales tax, it becomes pretty difficult to build and staff that fifth fire station.”

The new station will target the portion of the district to the southeast of Beltway 8 near the Sam Houston Race Park, an area that can be difficult to reach for firefighters at Station 24 on Perry Road, the next closest station, Lieder said.

The response rate standards set for ESD No. 13 by the National Fire Protection Association call for the district to have 15 firefighters on the scene within 9 minutes 90% of the time. The average response time for the district is 6 minutes and 40 seconds, Lieder said, but the drive time to incidents in the area south of the Beltway can be in excess of 14 minutes.

“The Gessner [Road] and Beltway 8 intersection is our main gateway into that part of the district, but traffic there gets notoriously bad at certain times of the day,” he said.

The area, which sat for many years as largely grassy fields, has also seen development pick up over the past few years, including new residential subdivisions, multi-story office buildings and warehouses that can be in excess of 500,000 square feet, Lieder said. Construction is underway on the Grand National Business Park, a project being planned on a 106-acre tract next to the Sam Houston Race Park.

“There’s a lot of demand for service down [there], and we are currently underserving that area,” Lieder said. “We’re probably down to the Sam Houston Race Park area at least once, many times twice a day, sometimes three times a day, for motor vehicle accidents.”

The fifth station would also have benefits districtwide, Lieder said. Right now, when the district has to respond to a structural fire, it has to dispatch firefighters from all four of its stations to meet NFPA standards, which leaves the rest of the district uncovered for a period of time, he said.

“With the addition of a fifth fire station in the district, we’ll dispatch four fire stations to the structural fire, and that will leave one of our fire stations—depending on where the fire is—in service,” he said. “We’ll then post that remaining engine company to kind of the geographic center of the district … so they will be available to respond immediately to any other calls that happen in the district.”

If approved, the measure would raise the sales tax rate on goods sold in the district’s boundaries from 7.25% to 8.25%, but only in parts where the rate has not already been raised to the maximum amount by Limited Purpose Annexation agreements—agreements between local utility districts and the city of Houston that allow those entities to collect sales tax revenue without voter approval. ESD officials estimated that roughly 90% of the commercial areas in the district are already at the maximum sales tax rate and would not see an increase.

The May ballot measure would help keep the remaining available revenue in the local area, Lieder said.

ESD No. 13 put a similar measure to voters In 2017, but the measure was defeated. District officials said low turnout—only 168 people voted in the 2017 election—could have worked against them and said they are increasing voter outreach efforts this time around. Two open house events are set for April 23 and April 30 where residents can view maps and ask questions to command staff, Lieder said.

If the measure does not pass, Lieder said the district has also looked into relocating Station 22, currently on Cypress North Houston Road, to the underserved area. The neighborhoods served by Station 22 also have several stations operated by the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department nearby, whereas the neighborhoods south of Beltway 8 are not quickly accessed by partner fire departments, Lieder said.

“If we have to make a choice about allocation of limited resources, this is most probably how it would occur,” he said. “It’s certainly not ideal, but it’s what we would most probably have to do.”

Lieder emphasized that the May ballot measure deals strictly with sales tax, and property tax rates would not be affected. ESD No. 13’s property tax rate is set at the maximum of $0.10 per $100 of valuation and cannot be raised.

The April 23 open house is set to take place from 6-8 p.m. at Station 24, 12073 Perry Road, Houston. Attendees can arrive at any point of the two-hour event, officials said.

Voters can cast ballots during early voting and on election day at the Cypress Creek Fire Department Administration Building, 11900 Cypress North Houston Road, Cypress. Early Voting will be available from April 22-26 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., April 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and April 29-30 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Polls are open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on election day, May 4.

A map of the district’s boundaries can be found here.

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5 comments
COMMENT
  1. Local Taxpayer

    VOTE NO!!!

    This is a TAX INCREASE!!! This same vote failed 2 years ago with only 168 votes, out of over 40,000 registered voters! The Chief has simply done away with volunteers, and is trying to use that as an excuse to have a fully paid department. Quick facts:

    YEAR Annual Budget Population
    2014 $3,724,000 72,000
    2018 $7,000,000 75,000

    In 4 years, the budget has increased 100% through property taxes, the population has increased less than 5%, and the number of calls has decreased! It is not a budget problem, but a management (or lack of) problem.

  2. Cypress Creek Fire Dept. PIO

    I understand there is some inaccurate information out there, so I wanted to make sure we cleared that up as people consider their votes for this election. To begin with, this is a 1% sales tax increase in those areas NOT already paying 8.25%, and is NOT a property tax in any form. Furthermore, see below for some comparative information; based on the year comparisons in the comment above:
    2014 Budget $4,466,452.20
    2018 Budget $6,152,994.96

    2014 population 72,547
    2018 population estimated 74,410

    2014 run volume: 1308
    2018 run volume: 1655

    2014 average response time:7 min 44 seconds
    2018 average response time: 6 min 40 seconds
    2019 average response time to date 6 min 35 seconds

    In 2016 volunteers gave a total of 39,360 hours of service averaging 273 twelve-hour staffing shifts a month
    In 2017 volunteers gave a total of 41,964 hours of service averaging 291 twelve-hour staffing shifts a month
    In 2018 volunteers gave a total of 41,772 hours of service averaging 290 twelve-hour staffing shifts a month

    This is about lowering response times, increasing trained staff, rehabilitating older stations to current standards of staffing and efficiency, and keeping visiting and local sales tax funding within the district, instead of being optioned by the City of Houston as part of a SPA/LPA.

    For more information, please visit our website, http://www.cypresscreekfire.com/election

    Edited for correction to URL.

    • Thank you for providing the information above. I noticed there are gaps between the information provided. Most categories are missing 2015, 2016 and 2017, why is that? It is necessary for the voter to have consistent information for all years from 2014 through 2018 on every category listed. Is there a state or local website that contains this information. As a voter I would appreciate openness on all of the listed categories provided.

  3. Another tax payer

    If you don’t vote yes, it’s purely ignorant. The increase is literally less than one cent of “your money” when you buy locally. Most of the businesses in the area already charge their 8.25 percent but there are some that charge less. That money, instead of going back to YOUR fire service and YOUR community will be consumed by the City of Houston (who, mind you, is going to be looking for any kind of way to be scraping pennies soon). Don’t be uneducated and put ignorant and inaccurate OLD data. As a taxpayer and voter, I know, and have already been spoken to about my contribution to the firefighters and Cypress Creek Fire Department

    • Why would you hid your name on the above post? Who are you? You lead with an insult and end your post with an insult. You then you divulged that there is ” OLD data”, well as a tax payer I want to see it! I believe all data is important if I am expected to support the proposition with an affirmative vote. I find your post emotional and not worth considering.

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Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.
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